The swearing-in ceremony at Bengaluru on Many 23, in which Janata Dal (Secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy took oath as Karnataka Chief Minister, became a platform for a rare political spectacle in present day India.
What makes the ceremony significant is that the leaders of all prominent opposition parties were present on stage. The Chief Ministers of the states of Kerala, Delhi, Puducherry, Bengal and Andra Pradesh, together with CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)leader Tejashwi Yadav, National Conference leader Mubarak Gul, Muslim League (ML) leader P K Kunhalikutty, CPI leader D Raja, Rashtriya Lok Dal president Ajith Singh were all present at the swearing-in ceremony. Of late, it is the first time that so many opposition party leaders were seen lined up on stage. It was a platform which carried big political messages.
One thing that becomes clear when the BJP government led by Narendra Modi completes 4 years in power is that our country has been divided into two political streams. One wants the nation to exist based on the democratic and secular values. Though there are differences over the specifics, it is these very values that are put forward by our Constitution which this political stream also basically put forth. However, the Sangh Parivar displays a political philosophy that is outright contrary to this. BJP is only a faction in the Sangh Parivar. They have been following an approach that sabotages the Constitutional values and institutions. It is a grave criticism against them is that even the constitutional institutions such as the Election Commission and the judiciary are being used for achieving political goals. Lately, the BJP had been using the Governor as a tool for implementing their despicable politics in Karnataka. Those who believe in democracy have begun widely sharing their concern that India will be transformed into another country if things continue the same way. The skepticisms that the BJP government has been moving towards their goal of revising even the Constitution have also become rampant.
The demand that the democratic and secular parties should join hands in order to resist the authoritarian trends of the Sangh Parivar, have been raised extensively. In theory, nobody had any dispute over this idea. However, the question was for whom it would be possible to put that in practice. It was amidst this, that the by-polls to Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh took place in March. When the parties, BSP and SP stood together against the BJP, they were able to secure a massive victory. Those were the poll results which reinforced the concept of an integrated move against the BJP. The dais for the swearing-in ceremony of Kumaraswamy should be seen as a continuation of this. It was a platform that was reminiscent of the first UPA tenure in 2014.
Just because leaders occupied the dais of a swearing-in ceremony, it cannot be assessed that significant unity has been achieved. Many of the parties that shared the dais there are those that quarrel in their own strongholds. For that very reason, arraying them in an integrated front is a Herculean task. But they are all united on one point: if the BJP is let go in its current path, their political existence itself will be at stake. Therefore, the key uniting factor for these parties is that there is no alternative but to agree on a common minimum programme to save the country and politics. Agreeing on this point by itself is big achievement. There are signs that political parties can rise to the occasion in that sense. That sign is the decision of Samajwadi Party, BSP and Congress to support the Rashtriya Lok Dal candidate against BJP in the Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll. Thus the twin scenes of Kairana electoral understanding and the swearing-in ceremony of Bengaluru are giving good auguries as a unity wished for by a large majority of people. Opposition parties will hopefully realize this and take care to initiate practical steps in earnest.